The Olympic Games

The 2004 Olympic Games opened in Athens Aug. 13 with pageantry befitting the return of the games to the land of their birth (in 776 B.C.). Athens last hosted the Olympics in 1896 when the modern games began.

The teams of 202 nations marched into the stadium. North and South Korea walked together, symbolizing the spirit of peace embodied in the games. The Greek crowds welcomed all, including the U.S. contingent, with warm ovations. It prompted a television announcer to comment that although the Greek people overwhelmingly oppose the war in Iraq, they distinguish between the U.S. government and its people.

Results in certain events have been a shock to some with delusions that U.S. superpower status extends to sports. South Africa’s swim team took the gold medal in the 400-meter relay, defeating the U.S., which has “owned” that event since the modern Olympics began. Puerto Rico’s basketball team trounced a U.S. “Dream Team” that included NBA players, proving that unity and teamwork can beat individual talent. Although the U.S. still had the most overall medals at press time, China was a close second and had more gold medals.

These could be signs that decades of U.S. dominance are giving way to greater equality in the world of sports.

But there are other lessons too. Mohini Bhardwaj, a leader of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, told an interviewer that while training a few years ago, she was forced to live on Power Bars because she had no money to buy food. Contrast that with the flood of ads from corporate America, most of them using the glory of these athletes to peddle beer and expensive cars.

Enough with the corporate stranglehold on everything that is great about the Olympics and sports in general. It’s high time that the federal government provide funds to insure physical fitness for all its people. But that would mean slashing the trillions squandered on weapons, using the money to help our youth run faster and leap higher, while helping all of us be healthier.

Chilling dissent

The FBI is at it again. In the 1940s and 1950s, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI used to harass Communists and other dissidents by sending agents over to visit them. Usually, the FBI already knew everything they needed to know and the “home visit” was intended only to intimidate.

In an atmosphere in which people were being sent to prison for their beliefs and associations, the arrival of FBI agents at your home or place of work was frightening. Worse, agents would go and visit one’s relatives or interview one’s employer, with the purpose of getting people fired or putting a strain on their relationships.

After a huge uproar about these practices — and other worse ones such as actual FBI frame-ups — we were promised that the abuses would cease. But certain people have never given up the idea of using the FBI as a political police to suppress those who would question the government and the ruling class.

Starting with the passage of the USA Patriot Act, the Bush administration has made it crystal clear that they see the FBI in this way.

Now, the FBI is reported to be visiting people who plan to participate in protests at the Republican National Convention. The purpose is again to frighten young activists and discourage them from speaking out publicly against the reactionary, warmongering policies of Bush and his friends.

We urge our readers not to be frightened by the FBI, because that is what they want. While lying to a government agent is a felony, you don’t have to talk to the FBI without a lawyer present. The FBI has a history of twisting people’s words, and what you say could get your friends in big trouble, if not you yourself, even though you contemplate no illegal acts. We all should be outraged by the Bush administration’s partisan misuse of public resources and its nonstop attacks on our constitutional right to dissent publicly.